Emergency legislation passed in response to the Covid crisis prevents a hotel bartender with 15 years of service from claiming layoff – although the man was fired two months before the pandemic hit, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ruled.
rian Mathias was told he would be out of work for three months when his hotel closed for renovations in January 2020, two months before its first shutdown.
The WRC has been informed that Mr Mathias’ workplace is still closed more than two years after his resignation.
However, his attempts to claim dismissal have been blocked by the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 after the Plaza Hotel, Tallaght, Dublin failed to reopen to the public due to pandemic restrictions.
Mr Mathias later requested a ruling from the WRC against his employer Plaza Tallaght Hospitality Limited in relation to Section 39 of the Severance Benefits Act of 1967.
During a hearing, WRC Adjudication Officer Catherine Byrne was told that Mr Mathias worked as a bartender at Grumpy’s Bar in the Plaza Hotel from August 27, 2005, and was promoted to bar supervisor in October 2008.
On January 27, 2020, the hotel was closed for renovation and all staff, including the complainant, were fired for an expected three months.
But construction work stopped when the first Covid lockdown began in March 2020 and the hotel has remained closed ever since.
In his submission, Mr Mathias said that a month after his dismissal, he completed the necessary RP9 form – which dismissed employees must complete to claim termination – and sent it to his company’s HR department, but no reply. has received.
However, along with colleagues, he received regular updates by mail from his HR manager, informing him that the hotel remained closed due to hospitality restrictions to help contain the spread of Covid-19.
One letter, dated December 16, 2020, confirmed that the workers would be laid off until March 31, 2021 at the earliest.
Mr Mathias also said that because he was fired in January 2020, he was not entitled to the Pandemic Unemployment Benefit (PUP) and instead received the lower Job Seeker’s Allowance.
In July 2021, the complainant – who has since gone on to work for a security company – said that he had been invited to apply for a job at another of the complainant’s hotels, the Tallaght Cross Hotel. In that role, he would have to perform security duties, answer the phone, open and close the construction worker parking lot, and walk around the building monitoring fire risks.
But he declined the offer, saying this was not his job and that he had been hired to work as a bar supervisor.
The complainant also told during the hearing that he walks past the Plaza Hotel every day and “there is no sign of it reopening”.
In response, Plaza Tallaght Hospitality submitted to the WRC that hotel director Declan Bowe, in a letter dated December 16, 2020, told employees that they would “remain employed by the company” and that they should “make themselves available for work if we contact you record”. to inform you that work is available”.
“As soon as we can get you back to work, we will notify you as soon as possible and expect you to return immediately unless otherwise agreed,” Bowe added.
As evidence at the hearing, Mr Bowe stated that the Tallaght Cross Hotel is a five-minute walk from the Plaza Hotel and that the complainant could have taken a job there at the same pay and conditions as before.
In her ruling, Ms Byrne said Mr Mathias’s claim to resign had been “constrained” by an amendment to the legislation “inserted by the Emergency Measures Act in the Public Interest (Covid-19) 2020”.
“The problem I am facing is the complainant’s desire to be fired and to demand a lump sum for redundancy, as opposed to his employer’s position that his dismissal was extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic” she noted.
But she argued that the insertion of Section 12A into the Redundancy Pay Act meant that an employee would not be entitled to redundancy pay if they were made redundant during “the so-called ’emergency period’ related to Covid-19”.
“Finally, I think the complainant’s job is not redundant,” she added.